Design in Chiang Mai

Creative City for Crafts and Folk Art - Chiang Mai 

Highlighting the vibrancy happening in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, there is an enthusiastic revival in arts and crafts.  In late 2017 Chiang Mai was declared a UNESCO Creative City for Crafts and Folk Arts and is now among some 116 proud cities in 54 countries with that distinction.

Regular visitors to Chiang Mai can appreciate its long history in traditional arts, its increasing integration of tradition with modern global technology, indigenous wisdom and craftsmanship. 

The North’s traditional Lanna Culture way of life, art and designs are showcased in museums, festivals and cultural centres.  Artisans encompass textile craftsmanship in weaving, batik, natural dyeing, embroidery and garment design, handmade ceramics, woodwork, jewellery making and more …

CHIANG MAI DESIGN WEEK - Workshops – craft techniques


During Design Week in December 2017 I had the opportunity to attend the Colorland workshop presented by Lauren from The Kindcraft and Kamonn from Vanillawalk.  We explored the basics of natural colors available in early times, cultural differences between tribes and regions and religious applications as well as colour theory - its role in traditional and heritage craft, in contemporary life and in our future on this planet.  The class encompassed global designers, architects and students from many fields of creativity, so the discussions evoked here were really valuable in exploring the effects of colour in so many aspects of our lives, especially going into the future.  Workshops and classes are supported by the TCDC.

 Embroidery Workshop

Casual classes were taught by a wonderful Akha tribal teacher using colourful cotton embroidery threads and simple stitches - traditional yet modern in design.  Sponsored by Ethnica, Chiang Mai.

Hmong Indigo Batik

With our Hmong tribal instructor and using a coal fire pot with a metal insert to melt the wax, we used copper pens to collect and apply the beeswax.  These come in 3 different sizes for large, small and dot designs and skill is needed to make a good line.  These ladies keep the design in their heads, so it was pretty hard to follow!

Basket weaving, Wood Carving, Beading and Hemp embroidery

Instruction was by ladies from the Lisu, Lahu, Mien, Akha and Hmong hill tribes, who have very little English, but broad smiles.  We created small pouches from hand woven hemp fabric and decorated with hemp threads and Job’s Tears (seed beads), all stitched in hemp threads hand dyed with natural plants.

POP Market

Exhibitors of Design Week were also featured at a Pop Market of modern creators and designers selling their goods in the open-air. These were accompanied by the traditional myriad of delicious Thai food stalls!

‘NAP FAIR’ - Nimmen Art and Design Promenade 

Innovative creators and designers offered their works in tiny boutiques while scrumptious, delectable local foods, workshops and live music were there to entertain - all in an eclectic street market in Soi 1.  This year the theme was ‘New Dawn – New Day’ and the products on offer were truly creative in Chiang Mai style.

FAI GAUM MAI - Lanna Ethnic Textile Exhibition

At Chiang Mai University Convention Centre was the exhibition of traditional Thai weaving - a true feast of colours, fibres and craft wisdom in textiles from all over the Lanna area of northern Thailand!


This local artists eco-village at Baan Kang Wat is part of Chiang Mai’s artistic scene, made up of eclectic buildings that house galleries, restaurants, cafes and workshops featuring art and design and yoga.  The community also hosts film screenings in their small amphitheatre, as well as organic food markets and art and design markets.  It is one of the best places to see local, creative upcoming art in the city.  

 So many visitors come to Chiang Mai to see the nature, the elephants, the nightlife and to experience the delicious food.  For me the earthy traditional craft and the vibrant creativity is a much stronger drawcard!

As the sun sets on beautiful Doi Suthep another full day of colour, creativity and exploration draws to a close ...

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